Washington growers to vote on research assessment

01/03/2013 09:25:00 AM
Andy Nelson

The chairman of a Washington fruit research group is optimistic that the state’s cherry and stone fruit growers will vote to double their assessments for research.

A proposal developed by the Wenatchee-based Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission would assess cherry growers $4 a ton and stone fruit growers $1 a ton to fund endowed chairs at Washington State University, said Jim Doornink, the commission’s president and president of Wapato, Wash.-based Doornink Fruit Ranch.

The assessment, which also would pay for Extension programs, would be capped at $5 million or eight years, whichever came first.

Food safety and fruit pathology could be among the top research topics, Doornink said.

Washington apple and pear growers approved a similar referendum in 2011, Doornink said. Dollar-per-ton assessments on apples and pears will fund $27 million in endowments for research chairs, information and technology transfer positions and research orchard operations.

Cherry and stone fruit growers were notified of the referendum in December and voting is scheduled to conclude later this month, Doornink said.

This is the second referendum on cherries and stone fruit, Doornink said. A 2011 effort failed, but he said that was likely due to confusion in the balloting procedure. A clearer process this time around should ensure passage, he said.

After the measure failed, many in the cherry industry told the commission they wanted another chance to approve it.

“The cherry industry is a strong supporter of research, and they benefit from it a lot,” he said. “I think it’s going to do well.”

One of the main benefits of the proposed measure is that industry members will play a big role in deciding what research the new endowed chairs conduct, Doornink said.

An industry committee would review what research is conducted.

“This is as close to a private-sector model as we could get,” he said. “It makes it an easy sell to industry. They feel they have something tangible there.”



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